What Are The Risks for Lone Workers?

What Are The Risks for Lone Workers?

You are here:

 

The main risks for lone workers are illness and injury, abuse or assault, or environmental dangers. The fact that they are unsupervised and alone makes them more vulnerable to the sorts of hazards that are more manageable where the worker is accompanied.

An injured or frightened lone worker may be unable to request assistance, be unsure of their location, or not be thought of as missing for several hours.

Knowing the hazards for lone workers will help you write an effective risk assessment or lone worker policy to keep your staff safe.

Here we will break down each lone working risk and give examples of how the hazard might present.

 

Mobile Lone Workers

 

Lone workers who travel as part of their role are called Mobile Lone Workers.

This category will include people who:

  • Move around the country, such as nationwide sales people or railway operatives
  • Move around one large area, such as several hectares of parkland
  • Go to several locations within one geographical area, such as district nurses or bus drivers

These lone workers are potentially at risk from:

  • Travelling
  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Assault, threats, or abuse
  • Their health
  • The environment

These types of lone workers are more at risk because they are difficult to locate if anything should happen to them and it may be several hours before anyone notices they are missing.

Fixed Location Lone Workers

 

Fixed location lone workers work at one specific place and do not tend to move around.

This category will include people who:

  • Work in one building away from their manager, such as housing association staff or factory workers
  • Work in a satellite office away from their colleagues, such as show homes sales offices or petrol station attendants
  • Are responsible for opening up and closing a shop

These lone workers are potentially at risk from:

  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Assault, threats, or abuse
  • Their health

 

Abuse, Threats, Or Assault Risks for Lone Workers

 

Some lone workers are at the most risk of assault, threats, or abuse due to the nature of their role. People who work one-on-one with vulnerable or volatile members of society are highly likely to be threatened, attacked, or abused at some point in their careers.

Support staff who work individually with offenders, addicts, or people with certain mental health conditions are high risk due to the unpredictability and potentially violent tendencies of the people they support.

Others are more at risk due to the activities they are carrying out, such as bailiffs, housing association staff, and security people. These types of lone workers are also considered high risk, as they often carry out their roles in volatile situations.

Some lone workers are at risk because of where they carry out their roles. Entering people’s homes leaves a person vulnerable. Midwives, district nurses and meter readers would be considered at risk of violence, threats, or abuse as they often do not know what sort of atmosphere or house they are walking into.

Case Study:  

 

Jill is a midwife. She has seen Sarah 4 times in the surgery before and they get on well.  Today she is doing a home visit. When Jill approaches Sarah’s home she can see a car parked on the driveway and the curtains are drawn.

When Jill knocks on the door, Sarah’s husband answers and is visibly angry. Jill can see Sarah nursing her arm and crying in the background.

Jill enters the house to begin her appointment and asks Sarah what is wrong with her arm.

The husband starts being abusive and threatening towards Jill. She wants to leave but he is still by the front door.  

Environmental Risks for Lone Workers

 

Some lone workers are most at risk due to the environment in which they work, or the machinery they use.

This is especially true where people are working in isolated places and are likely to be difficult to locate. The usual workplace risks, such as slips, trips, and falls, are more dangerous to people such as utilities workers, park rangers, or field scientists. If they needed help, they would find it more difficult to raise an alarm and pin-point their exact location to the emergency services.

Case Study:

John is a park ranger on a private estate. He is out on a 1000-hectare park repairing a fence and it starts to snow heavily. He cannot see through the snow to drive and he is worried he will become snowed in. He radios for help, but he cannot pin-point his location as his mobile phone is out of signal.

 

Travelling Risks for Lone Workers

 

It is a well-known fact that the more you do something, the higher the chances are of it becoming hazardous.

Frequently driving around for work increases the likelihood of having an accident, particularly if the colleague is tired or distracted.

A lone worker who has an accident might need to be able to specify their exact location to the emergency services or recovery drivers, which can be difficult on a motorway, for example.

Case Study

Ahmed is a salesman and is driving through unfamiliar A-roads to get to a client meeting. He has a collision with another car and his own car is badly damaged. He needs to make several phone calls to get help and let his manager know, but he is in shock. The driver of the other car is being aggressive and shouting at Ahmed.

Health Risks Of Lone Working

 

Working alone means that the colleague can be taken ill and be in serious need of assistance but is unable to raise an alarm.

Heart attacks, strokes, and even diabetic comas can come on very quickly. These are extreme instances, but even a less severe injury or illness, such as a broken bone or sudden migraine can also happen and would require assistance from a colleague.

Case Study:

Bushra is a saleswoman for a house builder and is working alone in their showroom sales office. She suffers from epilepsy, which is usually controlled by medication.

She has no appointments booked in for the day, so she goes into the showroom to tidy up.

Whilst upstairs, she has a seizure. As she falls to the floor she bangs her head.

 

Slips, Trips, or Fall Risks for Lone Workers

 

Anyone can suffer from slip, trip, or fall whilst at work. It is one of the most common causes of workplace injuries.

But it becomes more hazardous when a person is alone and would need to request assistance.

Lone workers who work in large areas where people pass through infrequently are likely to be most vulnerable, such as rangers or utility worker, or even hospital porters.

Case Study:

Larry works for a large utility company. He is out gathering water samples from a reservoir when he slips on some wet grass.

He lands awkwardly and hurts his elbow and sprains his ankle. He cannot reach his mobile phone with his sore elbow and he knows no one will wonder where he is for another two hours at least.

Lone Worker Risks From Machinery or Equipment

 

A lone worker is at as much risk from their machinery or equipment as any other worker. The difference is how long it would take for someone to notice they are missing, and how the lone worker would request assistance.

For example, a lone worker in a manufacturing plant might be injured by their machine and cannot call for help.

Or even, they are working with livestock and are trampled.

Case Study:

Timothy is a farm hand. Whilst he is tending to the cattle they become spooked and crush him amongst them. He is badly hurt and is unable to call for help. He cannot escape because the cows are blocking the way and are agitated.

 

Summary

In all of these examples and hazards, the main risk to a lone worker is being unable to call for help, unable to identify their location, or not being missed for a period of time.

A dedicated lone worker device or app can solve all these problems for you and your staff.